What happens in Vegas happens a lot in movies. Think Like a Man Too goes to the same casinos, strip clubs and pleasure pools with a fistful of jokers and an ace up its sleeve, the irrepressible Kevin Hart (pictured).
Once again there's a wedding involved and a last blowout to plan, although this time with Hart as the necessary worst best man for the occasions. In the first movie inspired by Steve Harvey's relationship advice book, Hart's scene-stealing as Cedric catapulted his movie career. Two years later he's brinking on Eddie Murphy stardom, and the sequel is smartly built around him.
Hart's Cedric is a best man barely taller than a ring bearer, for which he hilariously over-compensates with a semi-automatic mouth louder than his fashion sense. He's aggressively non-passive, a showoff with nothing to show for it except a harpy wife he left home and a $40,000-per-night Caesars Palace suite paid for with her credit card. It's the least he can do for the groom Michael (Terrence Jenkins) whose smothering mother (Jenifer Lewis) ladles tension on the bride's side of the weekend.
Director Tim Story gives Hart the total star treatment, from his flashy entrance to an overused Risky Business parody and a desperate attempt to win money in a male revue's amateur night. Even Hart's slow burns are jacked up. And he responds by carrying the movie on his wee shoulders, relentlessly seeking another laugh.
Story maintains a breezy pace until the home stretch, when everyone's romantic and professional issues need resolving. The screenplay leans too heavily on Hart's rat-a-tat narration of obvious events, so his final thoughts on love — using basketball analogies that sound lifted from Harvey's book — could get tuned out from sheer aural exhaustion.
On the plus side, Story drops in an old-school music video interlude — using Bell Biv Devoe's Poison lipsynched by bachelorette party girls — to showstopping effect.
The wedding partiers are an appealing bunch with roiling romantic issues, some fleshed out more than others and none stealing much time from Hart. It's a dead heat for second banana between Jim Piddock, Gary Owen and Wendi McLendon-Covey, whose whiteness among these black, beautiful people is played casually comical, with an ease and awkwardness that feels real, not insulting. It's as colorblind as biracial comedy gets, a social sweet spot.
Like Ride Along earlier this year, Think Like a Man Too has crossover potential with Hart that only preconceived stubbornness can deny, both stateside and overseas where black films generally aren't successful. That's the hope of both comedies' producer Will Packer, a St. Petersburg native profiled this week in the Times. (Click here to read the profile.) Look for him here in a cameo as a party bus driver, which is a pretty good metaphor for how things are going for him right now.
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.